Yoga has done fantastic things and attracted many people over the last twenty years. In every part of the world scientists are researching and correlating the effects of yoga therapy. Previously, yoga was only regarded as a spiritual science, but now people realize that it can also help them to overcome their physical and mental limitations. Recently, the whole tide of events has turned and now thinking people are endeavouring to use the science of yoga for the benefit of all mankind.
Although the world has raced ahead materially, there is something definitely lacking in the spiritual development of man. We have made great strides in technology which have enabled man to raise his standard of living and increase his abilities and knowledge. Yet, despite all these developments there is a spiritual vacuum, a deep-rooted mental agony in every person.
We are frightened when we hear of the rate of suicide in the world, and simply cannot believe that prosperous Americans take such great quantities of aspirin. The prevalence of cancer and heart problems in the face of progress made in the field of medical science is also frightening. Man is suffering from many diseases and problems today in spite of the fact that modern science is constantly developing new and better means of coping with them.
In the last two or three decades, when yoga was introduced to the modern world, it was received with some scepticism. At first people thought that it was another religion. But in spite of this young people took up yoga and soon others began to notice its amazing effects. Then the psychologists, medical doctors, criminologists, and philosophers started making investigations and they were surprised to find that yoga is not a religion but a science.
When scientists began to investigate yoga on the physical level, they found that it had a tremendous influence on the physical body. The yoga postures harmonized the endocrine glands. The practice of pranayama created a balance in the nervous system. The effects of asana and pranayama on the different organs of the body were also investigated. Research was done into the effect of pranayama on the behaviour of the hypothalamus and the effects of various hatha yoga practices upon mental, psychological and emotional problems. Experiments were successfully conducted on the effects of yoga in coronary disorders. Positive conclusions were drawn about the possibility of reviving insulin production in the physical body of diabetics. Yoga postures were determined for disc prolapse, which is a widespread problem.
Scientists have also investigated and assessed the value of meditation. It was once thought that meditation was an occult practice used to provoke some devil or spirit, or to escape from life. Meditation was therefore totally misunderstood. Now, however, scientists, psychologists and medical doctors have come to a different conclusion. They have measured the brain waves during deep meditation and found a predominance of alpha waves, which arise during the state of relaxation. Alpha rhythms automatically reduce the blood pressure of a person suffering from hypertension. Drugs are therefore not necessary. Since high blood pressure is a consequence of hypertension, it can only be balanced by bringing the alpha rhythm into action, and this can be achieved through the practice of meditation.
Meditation is also being used for the reformation of character, personality and mind. Sociologists and criminologists have clearly stated that the practices of yoga bring a tangible and substantial change in the behaviour patterns of delinquents, criminals, alcoholics and drug addicts.
Yoga has been internationally accepted as a therapeutic science, and more and more people are taking it up. But compared to the great population of the world, teachers are still very few, and consequently there are many people in the world who do not know yoga. It is therefore necessary for us to see that more and more people become aware of these benefits of yoga. In fact, one of the greatest services we can do for mankind today is to expose it to the practices of yoga.
It is not only for health that people need yoga. Everyone is trying to express themselves better, whether a painter, carpenter, businessman, tradesman or shopkeeper. It is important that yoga becomes one of the more recognized aids for developing this creative intelligence.
When you want to start practising or teaching yoga, you must begin with hatha yoga because these practices train the systems of the body. It is necessary to set this organism in order, otherwise any disharmony or disorder which may exist within the systems will make you unhappy and melancholic. Through the practices of hatha yoga, all the systems of the physical body are reconditioned.
In this physical body there are two forces which are in constant imbalance, causing many mental, emotional and physical problems. One is the force of the mind by which you think and know. The other is the force of life by which you live and move. If there were no life or mind, you can imagine what would happen to your body. The physical body does not move on the basis of the brain, heart, lungs, hands or feet. After all, a dead person has all these.
This body lives on the life force which is not the air you breathe, not oxygen, but bioplasm. This life force is generated in everyone at the time of conception. It is part of the cosmic force. If there were no life force, everything would disintegrate. This life force is known as prana. Prana is one part of your existence and mind is the other. If there was no mind, you could not see, even though you have eyes. You could neither speak, hear, breathe, touch, smell or know. This mind makes you aware of time and space and if it begins to fail, you make mistakes.
So, in this physical body there are two forces and a balance must be maintained between them. If the prana or mind is low, you are sick or abnormal. Prana and mind can be compared to the two wires conducting electricity. In order to have light, the positive and negative cables must carry the same voltage. Therefore, to have a healthy body and a strong peaceful mind it is most important that the pranic and mental forces are kept in balance. The purpose of hatha yoga, asana and pranayama is to create and maintain this balance. So, you can understand how important yoga is!
Is man the body? Is there nothing beyond this phenomenal existence? It has been said that man is far more than he knows. Somehow or other he has confined himself, like a frog living in a well. The frog thinks that the water in the well is all the water in the world. He cannot imagine the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean. His maximum vision is the little well, and that is the case with you.
Where do you go when you dream or when you go crazy? You have to imagine, to conceive of other dimensions of your personality. This is one dimension, but not the total. If it were the total dimension, the only dimension, then you would be absolute. If you were absolute, you would not be in time and space.
What is the definition of absolute? That which is beyond time and space is absolute, infinite. That which is relative to time and space is limited, finite. This state of mind is not absolute. It is only one dimension of your personality, perhaps the tiniest aspect. Your total personality is far greater. But how can you know it? You are angry, full of jealousy, worries, anxiety and frustration. Love and hatred inflame you and each and every insignificant event has a great bearing upon your mind. How to get out of it? If you want to remain in it, if you want to be worried, melancholic and depressed, well and good. But if you have become aware of the limitations of your existence, if you know that you are mentally, emotionally and spiritually atrophied, then you have to find a way out. I think mankind is searching for the way.
Throughout history, man has been trying to overcome his limitations. He wants to be infinite. He wants to see the light, and for that he has tried path after path. Therefore, I think it is worth your while to try yoga. The therapeutic value of yoga is one aspect. But man has a greater strength to know. Beyond this physical body there is something very great and the way to realize this is the path of yoga. You must always keep this possibility before you. You may live in this physical body, with this individual mind, but your awareness must be greater and wider. You should be aware of your infinitude. You should be aware of the possibility that you can create, and gradually get into yoga headlong, up to your neck.
Life means yoga; yoga means life. Therefore, you do not have to make any substantial change in the order of your living or day to day life. If it is not possible to practise in the morning, do it at night. Half an hour a day for yoga means that you have twenty-three and a half hours left for your other activities. During this half an hour, practise one or two asanas, simple pranayama and meditation. Sit quietly, close your eyes and find a way for yourself.
You have to find your own way! Nobody can carry you on their shoulders. There are no motor cars, no cable cars. You have to go by yourself. No swami, clergyman or religion can take you there. It is a very narrow path and two cannot traverse it together. There is one way traffic; only a one-pointed mind can go in. With a concentrated mind keep going in and follow the light.
—Manresa, Spain, August 1979